We left Australia on the 7th of June bound for Buenos Aires in Argentina via Auckland New Zealand. After arriving in New Zealand we were told that the Puyehue volcano in the Andes Mountains of southern Chile was erupting at the time and had made it dangerous to fly at night. This was due to the large plume of ash rising from the volcano. We soon learnt that this ash made it as far as Australia grounding many planes. Thankfully our plane was delayed until the next morning. We didn't mind a bit as it was our first night on this trip out of Australia and the airline were putting us up in the Grand Chancellor all paid for. There were only 1 or 2 disgruntled passengers, 1 of whom was only holidaying for 8 days in Buenos Aires. We guessed that this might shake of any jet lag before his return home.
After landing in Buenos Aires and finding a comfy hotel to stay in; we went into jet lag recovery mode. For the next few days we would wake at 7am last till 6pm sleep till 2am and then venture out for a beer and dinner for 1-2 hours before sleep and waking early again. This was painful but a good place to be in as we discovered Buenos Aires seems to be always awake.
We found evidence of the volcano here. At first we thought that this must be a very dusty city. We soon realised that the buildings and cars were actually covered in a silky thin layer of ash.
Finding our bearings in such a large and beautiful city, we decided the only way to see a lot of it before we left would be to jump a board one of the city double decker buses. This was a great decision as we were able to jump on and off the bus where and when we chose; we discovered many sites. As always we left many more for returning journeys.
Chomping for our first surf in South America we hopped aboard the Buquebus Ferry en route to Uruguay.
First stop Colonia before the capital and then La Paloma where we camped down in a cosy wood fire heated cabin. Unfortunately the swell had a bit to be desired. It was in this town we adopted our first of many adopt-a-dogs who became know as Ol' Mate. Ol' Mate would sleep out the front of our cabin and join us on many walks. Wait near our clothes on the beach while we surfed and generally protect us from many other stray dogs.
We discovered a great home in Punta del Diablo with another Ol' Mate. This was the best discovery yet. 2 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, dining room and open fire all within a stones through from some of the best surf yet. Being able to cook was great as we discovered that eating in Uruguay involved lots and lots of cheesy pizzas or hamburgers.
I was surfing on my own with a couple of locals when a curious sea lion decided to swim over for a closer look. I did my best trying not to be alarmed. I asked the locals if the sea lion was dangerous in my limited Espanol. They laughed not really understanding the stress I was feeling. Not long after I calmed myself down, the sea lion lost interest and moved across the bay. I felt relieved and went in to tell Bronnie my experience.
The following day Bronnie and I were out surfing in the same spot on our own when the curious sea lion swam over for a look. It was a lot closer today; which really gave both of us the heeby jeebies. Not feeling very comfortable with it bobbing around us within a meter or two, we decided to head to shore. Not long after this decision a good wave came through which for Bronnie wasn't so lucky to pick up. For me it wasn't a bad wave to escape on. I jumped off my board in the shallows to see where Bronnie was at in time to see her paddling for a wave with the sea lion mimicking a killer whale inches from her torso. My goodness I thought as Bronnie had timed her escape wave to the last dying seconds. We later read that sea lions can become quite aggressive when territorial but most of the time they are quiet and safe.
It was at this point in our trip we decided that Uruguay was a bit too cold for our liking and that we wouldn't cut back across to the west coast near Santiago, Chile as originally planned. But work our way into warmer weather up the gorgeous coast of Brasil.
Feeling excited to cross the border into Brasil; we turned up to the bus station in the border town Chuy. Bought our tickets and eagerly waited. During this time we suddenly realised that we might need a visa for Brasil. This fell on us like a tonne of bricks. We remembered that there was a process of weeks for this visa. Our next thoughts were Surfing in chilli Chile after all. Our next step was to apologise to the ticket man in the little Español we had learnt. On doing this we were sent to the Brasilian embassy where they spoke English and simply said no worries
We paid $AUD40 and waited overnight for the visa to be processed. In Australia this would have cost $100 and taken weeks to process. We were very joyous crossing the border with our freshly stamped passports.